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Behind the easternmost houses and condominiums in Tierrasanta, a sparsely vegetated landscape of rounded ridges -- a part of Mission Trails Regional Park -- stands head and shoulders above the urban plain. Months of heat and drought have literally cooked the place and made it as dry as dust. Don't even think of coming here during September's midday heat. Around six in the evening, though, the sun turns a mellow yellow hue, and a westerly breeze usually helps to lower the air temperature into a tepid register. By then, intrepid hikers, runners, leashed dogs, and mountain bikers appear. This is a fine time of day to enjoy some fresh air and hopefully catch a splendid view of the sun sinking into the ocean.

Many people like to follow a four-mile route along the Rim Trail, a signed route that was pieced together out of existing utility and fire roads. The starting point is at the corner of Calle de Vida and Colina Dorada in Tierrasanta, where curbside parking is available. Once on the trail, proceed northwest, following a wide dirt path, to a saddle (elevation 730 feet) at 0.8 mile. The structures on the hilltops hereabouts are associated with the Second San Diego Aqueduct, which helps import water from the Colorado River Aqueduct and California Aqueduct systems.

At the saddle, veer left on the Rim Trail. Some 2.4 miles later you will return to this saddle, after looping counterclockwise on a route that stays high on the ridgelines and does not descend very far into any ravines. Just follow the Rim Trail signs.

The view is panoramic along much of the trail. Off to the east, Fortuna Mountain rises like a scruffy hog's back, and below, at its foot and draining toward Mission Gorge, lies the oak-lined valley known as Suycott Wash. In the west, you look upon San Diego's unique canyon-and-mesa topography, spreading outward to the shimmering ocean a dozen or more miles away.

When you get back to the 730-foot saddle, return to the starting point the way you came.

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